The Buzzards are Back for WaKeeney’s 2021 “Buzzard Bash”

Ah, spring!

Such a wonderful season. The air is fresh, the flowers are blooming, and the buzzards are back in town!

This year, we’re celebrating our well-weathered, black-feathered friends by welcoming them back to WaKeeney at the very first “Buzzard Bash” hosted by the Trego County Chamber.

Join us on Saturday, April 24th at 8:30am when the citizens of our county come to Downtown WaKeeney for the all-day, FREE event with activities for the entire family.

5K Poker Fun Run: A Footrace for the Best Hand (starts at 8am)

Head to the starting line with your game face on for a 5K Poker Fun Run. Hit the bricks with other runners on a five-kilometer route around WaKeeney. Along the way, pick up a playing card and add it to your hand. At the end of the race, we’ll find out who is the fastest runner and who was the luckiest at cards. Runners can register for the race through the Trego County Recreation Center

Wake Up the Kids! (starts at 9am)

Come on down to Courthouse Square for a morning of fun and games for the kids! Get that energy out early by letting them join in with their peers for running and jumping while they play organized games.   

Going on an Egg Hunt (10am to 4pm)

The buzzards have been busy since they’ve come back to roost—one even laid an egg! Keep your eye on the Chamber’s Facebook page for updates and clues that will help you find the black buzzard egg that is hidden somewhere in Downtown WaKeeney. Each half hour a new clue will be posted to help you be the first to claim the winning prize. 

WaKeeney Buzzard Bash

The Sights, Tastes, and Smells of Our Vendor Fair (10am to 4pm)

Hone your five senses in on the great products sold by Trego County’s local vendors. You won’t be able to resist the great sights, scents, and prices of our innovative business owners.

Beer Garden (Noon to 11:30pm)

Raise a pint to welcome the return of WaKeeney’s buzzards! The beer garden will be open all day to quench your thirst. Enjoy the first round with a treat from one of the vendors for lunch, then end the day with one at the street dance that night. 

Yippy-a-yea! It’s the Bicycle Rodeo! (12pm)

Saddle up, little cow-kids, and ride on over to the Trego County Sheriff’s Department’s “Bicycle Rodeo!” The annual bike safety and fun event has joined up with the Buzzard Bash to give kids an opportunity to try out their skills, learn bike safety tips, and get together with other bike riders. Mosey on over to Courthouse Square at high noon to get your little buckaroos to the Bike Rodeo! 

Stock Up at the Supermarket Sweep (9:30am)

Just like the popular game show, a Supermarket Sweep contestant gets the chance to fill their cart with anything they grab within minutes inside the aisles of Malay’s Market. Race up and down the aisle for the cost of a $5 per one raffle ticket or five tickets for $20. The winning ticketholder will get five minutes to fill his cart, with one of those minutes in their meat department. Swoop in on that juicy steak or load up on fresh fruits and vegetables! Call Pasha at Malay’s Market for more information.

Hit the Brakes at the Buzzard Bash Car Show (10am to 2pm)

Roll on down the highway to the Buzzard Bash Car Show in Downtown WaKeeney to enjoy the beautiful designs and details of the road’s best restored vehicles. Car enthusiasts come from across the state to display their antique and vintage cars. This event is sponsored by Dreher Automotive and the Route 283 Cruisers. 

Horseshoe and Washer Tournaments (1pm to 4pm)

Come on, get lucky at the Horseshoe and Washer Tournament! The Trego County Recreation Center is hosting a Horseshoe and Washer Tournaments in Courthouse Square for all those backyard gamers.  

Free BBQ Feed (5pm to 7pm)

Beat back the hunger pains with a burger at the free community barbeque! Get in line for a delicious burger or hot dog and sit down with your fellow citizens for a meal of good food and great conversation with friends. The BBQ is hosted by the Chamber and served on a first come, first serve basis to the first 350 people, so hurry on over! 

Paramount on the Bricks (8pm to 11:30pm)

Come dancing at the Buzzard Bash street dance! Paramount, the ‘80s rock tribute band, will be playing all the hits on Saturday night. Now’s your chance to break out your vintage neon shirts and tease out that hair while you dance to the music of Journey, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and more!

Look for the Buzzards

Before the day is over, take a cruise around the city and try to find the lucky homes that were the last ones to get “flocked” with black buzzard yard pins. Our Buzzard Bash festival is only one of two in the entire country and we welcome anyone who wants to join us for fun and festivities in Downtown WaKeeney! 

Please adhere to the current social distancing and mask mandates throughout the day. Call the Trego County Chamber for more information.

70 Years of Celebrating Christmas in WaKeeney

The 70thanniversary of the first tree lighting ceremony in the “Christmas City of the High Plains” is only days away as we ‘round the corner to the holiday season. Our festival planners have been busy planning an extravaganza of fun and festive activities on Saturday, November 28thto kick off the season and celebrate seven decades of holiday spirit in WaKeeney.

Holiday Shopping

Get your Christmas shopping lists ready for the Annual Christmas Bazaar hosted by the Trego County Home Based Businesses. Vendors from across Western Kansas will be displaying their products for shoppers to find the perfect gifts for their family and friends. From personal care items, to Christmas ornaments you will treasure for years; you’ll find something special at the Christmas Bazaar held at the Trego County Fairgrounds from 9 AM – 4 PM.

Christmases of Years Past

Visit the Trego County Historical Society Museum for a trip back in time through the “Timeless Holiday Tradition” display. It explores the holiday traditions held dear by the people of our community and shares the story of how WaKeeney became “The Christmas City of the High Plains.” Included in the exhibition is a scaled down model of our Christmas tree and life-sized replicas of the bells, wreaths, and stars still used in the Main Street display to this day. The museum is open from 10 AM – 4 PM.

Christmas Comes Alive

Bring the kids to the WaKeeney Public Library for a live puppet show of the Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol.” It is a story of redemption for our favorite Christmas “humbug” Ebenezer Scrooge who learns the true meaning of Christmas with the help of the ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future. The performance begins at 2 PM. 

Christmas Traditions in Downtown WaKeeney

Join us on Main Street and take a ride on the Nex-Tech Express Train or a horse drawn wagon. See our famous Christmas lights from the unique perspective of an old-time ride down Main Street. Tickets are FREE for the train and wagon rides, as well as a visit later with Santa. They are available for pick up at the WaKeeney Public Library beginning at 3 PM and everyone is encouraged to grab one to reduce the chance of long lines. The rides will run between 4 PM and 8 PM. 

A Visit from Santa’s Reindeer

Christmas wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of Santa’s team of reindeer. Stop by their holiday trailer parked on Main Street to wish them well on their long trek around the world on Christmas Eve. There will be four live reindeer to view, which runs from 4 – 8 PM.

A Communal Meal to Warm the Christmas Spirit

Plan to stop at the VFW Hall for a bowl of hot soup and a delicious dessert. This is an annual event that warms the heart, as well as the spirit. The selection of soups and desserts are homemade by the local chefs of the VFW Auxiliary and will be served at 4:30 PM. You can choose to eat there or take a meal to go. Bring your appetites!

Hometown Christmas Hospitality

Get a jump on your holiday shopping by visiting Downtown WaKeeney businesses. Many of them offer special sales during the event, as well as sweets to enjoy and fun activities for the kids. Businesses participating in Santa’s Downtown Workshop will be open from 5 – 8 PM. 

Be sure to stop by the recently updated North Pole Park to see the photo mural that was recently added to the north wall. The image was captured by Sarah Hille of Free Range Photography and recently installed by Commercial Sign Company. Gather your family together to take photos behind the fun elves and snowmen cut outs—a perfect photographic souvenir of your time in WaKeeney! 

And, don’t forget to stock up on WaKeeney Christmas City note cards to send to all your friends this holiday season. The image is a reproduction of an original oil painting by local artist Laurie Albin. Two styles are available for $10 per package of five and all proceeds go to the North Pole Project. They are available at Gibson’s Health Mart, Solution North Bank, First Federal Bank, Peoples State Bank, The Studio 128, and Trego County Historical Museum.

70 Years of Christmas Joy Under WaKeeney’s Famous Tree

Come celebrate the 70thAnniversary of the “Christmas City of the High Plains”when we turn on the lights to our famous 35-foot Christmas tree!The TCHS band will be playingour favorite holiday songs under the direction of Randy Saueraswe wait for Santa’s arrival. The Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony begins at 6 PM and Santa will make his way down Main Street to light the tree and its heavenly blue canopy at approximately 6:15 PM. 

Santa’s Arrival in the “Christmas City of the High Plains”

Bring your kids to the North Pole Park to show Santa his new “home” in WaKeeney. Our volunteer team of elves have been working hard to get it ready for Santa so he can sit in comfort as he receives our children’s Christmas wish lists. Treats will be handed out, along with Christmas cheer, after the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony concludes around 6:15 PM. Kids can bring their letters to Santa and deposit them in the North Pole Park Victorian-style mailbox. 

Celebrating 70 Years of Christmas Spirit

WaKeeney has been celebrating Christmas with bright lights and lots of holiday spirit for seven decades. With the new additions of LED lights, a new home for Santa, and the updates to North Pole Park, we are ready to ring in another seventy years. Please join us under the lights of our famous tree on November 28th, 2020 (always the Saturday after Thanksgiving) to celebrate the holidays and the festive spirit of the “Christmas City of the High Plains.” 

This annual tradition will continue in 2020 but we urge everyone to practice safety measures. Please, follow social distancing guidelines & please wear masks if required.  Follow us on Facebook @GetWaKeeney, check out our website, or call (785) 743-8325 for more information.

Enjoy and Be Safe!

A New Home for Santa at North Pole Park in Downtown WaKeeney

We’re sprucing up the “Christmas City of the High Plains,” with even more lights, fresh updates, and a new home for Santa!

The New Santa House

WaKeeney’s famous Christmas light display is celebrating its 70thanniversary on Saturday, November 28, 2020 and our community wants to make it the most memorable year yet! We’ve been busy planning an amazing festival to welcome Santa to our community, and we’re even giving him a new house to greet the children who are anxiously awaiting his arrival. 

Construction crews have been busy erecting a larger traditional wood frame house, with a porch and two doors for easier access to the “big guy” and to make it a comfortable place for him to rest during his visit to Downtown WaKeeney.

The new Santa House will be replacing the smaller, metal one that has been part of North Pole Park since its founding. The park celebrates everything Christmas and is a great place for selfies to commerorate a visit to WaKeeney anytime of year. 

Christmas Decorating has Already Begun in Downtown WaKeeney
More updates are planned for the upcoming holiday season. A new 12’ X 12’ picture mural taken by Sarah Hille of Free Range Photography will be installed on the park’s north wall by Commercial Sign Company. An interpretive panel will be installed next to it to provide more information about our famous 35-foot tree and its historic decorations.

You’ll also find new holiday cutouts in the park, with face openings cut into them for fun photo opportunities. Created by local craftsmen and artists, these elves are different sizes so the entire family can get into the picture and celebrate the holiday spirit any time of year.

Christmas Shopping in WaKeeney

Our Main Street light display continues to grow, too! LED perimeter lightsare being added to the top of the Trego County Courthouse to match the perimeter lights that were installed on the commercial buildings in 2018. These lights are displayed throughout the year, with colors that can be changed to celebrate different holidays and our local schools’ colors. 

Make Plans to Celebrate the Holidays in the “Christmas City of the High Plains”

Join us on Saturday, November 28, 2020 when Santa arrives at his brand-new house! The Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony is a free, annual outdoor event, and the light display will be visible nightly until after New Year’s Day 2021. Due to the current social distancing restrictions, the Virtual Reality Ride has been cancelled and please be sure to bring your mask and practice social distancing while at the event. 

Come celebrate 70 years of holiday spirit in the “Christmas City of the High Plains!” More events arebeing planned for the 2020 celebration, so check in with local sources for more information.

Explore the History of WaKeeney’s Famous Christmas Display

The Trego County Historical Society Museum’s celebration of the 70thanniversary of the “Christmas City of the High Plains” continues into its fourth month, with an exhibit that tells the story of Downtown WaKeeney’s famous Christmas display.

The Christmas tree in downtown WaKeeney in the 1950s.
Photo provided by Trego County Historical Society Museum.

The “Christmas City of the High Plains” Exhibit

Museum curators have been busy adding more items to their exhibit each month since its opening in July.  The exhibit has steadily been increasing in size, with each month exploring a different phase in the history of WaKeeney’s light display. 

In July, the museum featured Christmas tree inspired items, such as Christmas trees shaped cookie cutters, salt and pepper shakers, Christmas stockings, and many more items. Each month, fourteen more representations of Christmas trees are added until November, when the full collection of 70 items will complete the display. 

The tree’s construction and its ornaments were examined in the August exhibit, with several made to scale cardboard cutouts of the wreaths, bells, and stars available to view up close. Information cards further explore how two local community leaders, Art Keraus and J.H. “Jake” Heckman came up with the concept and rallied the Trego County community to lend their time, talents, and even heavy equipment to install the very first light display in 1950.

September’s addition to the exhibit took a look at the history of the official 1988 logo and the many different items that have promoted the “Christmas City of the High Plains” through the years.

The logo was created by WaKeeney native Tracey Deines Davis, cofounder of Duncan and Davis advertising firm. It has since been used on keychains, postcards, ornaments, mugs, and many other treasured keepsakes that remind us of special Christmases spent in WaKeeney.

Celebrate with Us in the “Christmas City of the High Plains”

Explore the history of WaKeeney’s spectacular Christmas light display with a trip to the Trego County Historical Museum! The exhibit will continue to explore a new theme every month until Saturday, November 28, 2020, when we will celebrate 70 years since WaKeeney’s first Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony. The museum has created a scavenger hunt to find all the trees currently on display and visitors can check back each month to find the new trees that have been added to the display.Hope to see you there! 

The Holidays Come Early to the “Christmas City of the High Plains!”

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the first tree lighting and we’re kicking off the festivities early with a look into the past as we prepare for the future during “Christmas in July!”

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Putting the Shine on Christmas

Over the past few weeks, members of our community have gathered together to clean up and refurbish the decorations that have turned Downtown WaKeeney into a glittering holiday spectacle every December since 1950.

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The 24 original, handmade bells and 14 wreaths that decorate our streets each year are stored throughout the room in the “Christmas Room” in the City Building. Recently, a group of volunteers spent the two evenings cleaning and painting them to put the shine back on when they greet our guests at the 70th anniversary event of the “Christmas City of the High Plains.” They are just one piece of the beautiful display that brings people from all over the world to our town every Christmas Season.

Throughout the years, we’ve added even more to the display, which now boasts 1100-yards of greenery, additional decorations, 6,800 red, yellow, blue, and green lights, and the new LED perimeter lights installed in 2018 that decorate Downtown WaKeeney all year long!

1950's Christmas Tree

Photo provided by Trego County Historical Society Museum.

Christmas, Past and Present

When our four-square block Christmas display was first revealed in 1950, newspapers from Kansas and Colorado visited our town to cover the grand presentation. The Hays Daily News, Wichita Beacon, Topeka Capital, Wichita Eagle, and the Denver Post all attended the inaugural ceremony, capturing the beauty in photographs to share with their readers. They nicknamed WaKeeney “The Christmas City of Kansas” and the “Christmas Decorations City,” giving it the distinction of being a “must see” holiday experience.

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Photo provided by Trego County Historical Society Museum.

 

The Trego County Historical Society Museum has joined the “Christmas in July” celebration with an exhibit that celebrates our tree and it’s history. Fourteen Christmas trees are currently on display, and each month an additional fourteen trees will be added until there are 70 Christmas trees of all shapes and sizes in the museum. Included in the collection is a replica of the first Christmas tree that was made to scale and donated by Sylvia Sherfick.

Current and former residents of our community are invited to be a part of the exhibition by sharing their treasured photographs or memories of past tree lightning ceremonies. Contact the Historical Society Museum for more information.

Celebrating the 70thAnniversary of WaKeeney’s Christmas Tree

Don’t forget to order your official anniversary t-shirt. The “Too Lit to Quit” t-shirts can be preordered now at the Bonfire online store. (They come in grey/black, blue, purple, red, and Christmas green, with the official 70th anniversary and the “Too Lit to Quit” logos printed in white. The shirts can be ordered as a short sleeve or long sleeve shirt, in sizes Youth, to 3XL and they can be shipped to your home or they can be picked up at Malay’s Market. The proceeds from the shirts will go toward the construction of a new Santa House in North Pole Park.

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Photo provide by the Trego County Historical Society Museum.

The Holiday Spirt is Alive and Well in WaKeeney, Kansas

For 70 years, WaKeeney has been the “Christmas City of the High Plains.” The traditions, memories, and good tidings our tree has provided our community and its visitors is at the center of a six-month celebration that will be remembered for years to come. Join us in celebrating “Christmas in July” and meet us under the tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving, November 28, 2020!

 

 

Dressing Up for the 70th Anniversary of WaKeeney’s Christmas Tree

70 years logoThis year marks the 70thanniversary of the “Christmas City of the High Plains” and we are planning a celebration that will be bigger and more festive than ever before!

The WaKeeney “elves” are busy sprucing up the historic 1950 decorations and adding to the town’s many holiday attractions to make our town sparkle with holiday spirit and community pride.

You can become part of the effort, too!

 

“Too Lit to Quit” T-shirts

The “Too Lit to Quit” t-shirt is the official shirt celebrating the 70thanniversary of our annual Christmas event. It’s a nod toward the LED color-changing parimeter lights that were installed in 2018 during the “Get Lit” initiative. Today, you’ll find them brightening up Main Street throughout the year to celebrate holidays and events happening in our town.

The “Too Lit to Quit” t-shirts can be preordered now at the Bonfire online store, with a delivery time of 15 days. (Orders placed after the initial start date of July 15th will be filled in 15-day increments.) They come in grey/black, blue, purple, red, and Christmas green, with the official 70thanniversary and the “Too Lit to Quit” logos printed in white. The shirts can be ordered as a short sleeve or long sleeve shirt, in sizes Youth, to 3XL. The unisex classic crewneck style t-shirt is made from a long-lasting, durable 60-40 cotton/polyester blend that is combed and ringspun for a soft texture and premium feel. You can have them delivered to your home, or save on shipping charges by having them delivered to the central WaKeeney distribution point, Malay’s Market.

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The New Santa House

The proceeds from the sale of the shirts will go toward building the new Santa house in North Pole Park. This project has just gotten underway and promises to be a magical place where kids can tell their secret wishes to our annual guest of honor; Santa Clause!

Get the Christmas spirit started early by purchasing a “Too Lit to Quit” t-shirt and help us celebrate the 70thAnniversary of the Christmas City of the High Plains! The ceremony will be held on Saturday, November 28th, two days after Thanksgiving, in  Downtown WaKeeney!

Celebrating the 50-Year Anniversary of Interstate-70

For more than six decades, Interstate 70 has played an important role in the economy and tourism of Kansas. In Trego County, it takes us to work, leads people to our businesses, and even brings WaKeeney’s famous Christmas Tree to our Main Street.

I-70 opens 1970

Photo courtesy of the Trego County Historical Society.

Trego County’s I-70 Dedication Ceremony, the First in NW Kansas

The 22+ mile portion of I-70 that crosses Trego County was dedicated on October 10, 1960 in a ceremony attended by representatives of the governor’s office, state highway department officials, and regional and local dignitaries. The stretch between Ogallah and Collyer was the first portion completed in Northwest Kansas, a full ten years prior to the official completion of the entire stretch of road through our state.

Dedication Ceremony WKW October 13, 1960 Pg 2

Photo from the Western Kansas World, courtesy of the Trego County Historical Society. 

“Harold Hillman, president of Chamber of Commerce, waits for ribbon cutting with Vesta and Vera McCoy, daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Johnny McCoy and Duane Carlson. The girls held the blue ribbon that was stretched across the south double lane of Interstate 70 highway.” 

“Harold Hillman, president of Chamber of Commerce, waits for ribbon cutting with Vesta and Vera McCoy, daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Johnny McCoy and Duane Carlson. The girls held the blue ribbon that was stretched across the south double lane of Interstate 70 highway.” From the Western Kansas World Newspaper, October 1960. Photo courtesy of the Trego County Historical Society.

The ceremony began with the Trego Golden Eagles Band parading down WaKeeny’s Main Street, followed by a ribbon cutting ceremony at the rest area between mile markers 130 & 131. Several speeches were given and a concert was performed by the TCHS band. A large group of Trego County residents were in attendance and the ceremony concluded with a buffet luncheon at the Staatz Hotel in Downtown WaKeeney.

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Linking the Country Together

Interstate 70 was an initiative of Kansas-born President Dwight D. Eisenhower. As a World War II general, he was inspired by the Autobahn, Germany’s highway system, and saw a need for a similar transportation network in the United States. Through the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, he initiated the construction of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highway.

The 40k-mile highway stretches from Baltimore, Maryland to Cove Fort, Utah, with 424-miles crossing the state of Kansas and 22+ miles crossing Trego County. It was considered the “highway of the future” at the time, and over the last five decades it has become an important link that continues to benefit the people of our communities.

When Western Kansas drivers first took to the road in 1960 there were a few changes to the way they drove. The State Highway Patrol addressed these issues in an article in the Western Kansas World called “Some Do’s and Don’ts on I-70.” Among their directions were: Traffic must travel between 40 and 70-miles an hour, drivers cannot cross the center lane, instructions to enter the highway, and where stop signs were placed in WaKeeney as a result of the additional traffic to the interstate.

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Photo courtesy of the Trego County Historical Society

A Road to Northwest Kansas Attractions

I-70 takes travelers across many of Kansas’s unique events and attractions, including Cedar Bluff State Park in Trego County, Monument Rocks and Castle Rock in Gove County, and Little Jerusalem Badlands, Kansas’s newest state park in Logan County. Other places of note along the route are Sternberg Museum of Natural History (Hays), Fick Fossil and History Museum (Oakley), the Flint Hills Discovery Center (Manhattan), the Territorial Capitol Museum (Lecompton), and the newly renovated Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum (Abilene). Along the way you’ll also find a wide variety of restaurants, locally grown food, and unique shopping experiences.

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Celebrating 50 Years of Travel on I-70

The Kansas I-70 Association, a nonprofit organization founded in 1989 by twelve Kansas communities including WaKeeney, is proud to celebrate 50 years of Interstate 70.

The current 16-member association includes Goodland, Colby, Oakley, WaKeeney, Hays, Russell, Salina, Abilene, Junction City, Manhattan, Lecompton, Lawrence, Leavenworth, Bonner Springs, Shawnee and Kansas City. Their goal is to achieve an economic benefit from tourism to their communities. Today, I-70 contributes more than 96,000 jobs and $11 billion dollars in trade and tourism dollars to the towns and cities along its route.

This summer take a drive on Interstate 70 and celebrate “America’s Main Street!”


*Because of closures/schedule changes due to COVID-19 please check availability before traveling.

 

Where to Go to Enjoy Time Outside in Trego County

Looking for something safe to do with your kids during this unexpected school closure and Spring Break? Trego County has many sites and landmarks that are great places to learn and play outdoors!

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Hiking and Fishing at Cedar Bluff State Park & Reservoir

Cedar Bluff State Park & Reservoir is continuing to rise and it’s currently at the highest point it’s been in years! State Park officials have turned on the water to the Despatch and Hoonii Campgrounds. The North bathhouse (located by the rental cabins) is open for public use.

Your child will be thrilled when they hook a fish at Pa’s Pond. Located in the Bluffton Area on the North Shore, this is a stocked pond with shade trees that are perfect for a picnic when the weather is nice.

The Cedar Bluff Office is closed to public access at this time and staff will be available by phone. We encourage everyone to use the HuntFish KS and Campit KS apps to purchase all your privileges and reservations prior to visiting the park.

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Let your kids run off extra energy at Cedar Bluff State Park’s 5-mile Agave Ridge Nature Trail. The first mile is paved and an easy walk for everyone. Interpretive signs of flora and fauna in the area. The next four miles is a mowed trail that leads to a beautiful view of the 100-ft. bluffs that gives the park its name. This is a more difficult trail for ambitious hikers. Spring is the perfect time to see the blooming flowers and playful animals enjoying the warm weather and this is a great trail to view them.

The Agave Ridge Trail is accessed through the Page Creek Area on the South Shore of Cedar Bluff State Park and is managed on Wildlife Area lands; vehicle permits are required to access the trail head.


NOTE: The bridge over the Cedar Bluff Reservoir spillway is currently under construction on K-147 until August 2020. The road is closed for 1.8 miles, but the rest of the highway is open to travelers. KDOT has created a 60-mile detour around the lake. For a shorter detour, take one of Trego County’s scenic country roads, such as TR CO U or X. Just Make sure road conditions are good, especially after wet weather.

To get to the North Shore: Access to all the north side landmarks can be reached as usual from I-70 at the Ogallah exit traveling south on K-147. (Emanuel Lutheran Church, the Bluffton Campground, Cedar Bluff State Park’s office, Threshing Machine Canyon, and the BOD Marker) 

To Get to the South Shore: Access the South Shore by traveling north on K-147 from Hwy 4 at Brownell. (Page Creek Campground, Agave Ridge Hiking Trail, and the Scenic Bluff Overlook)


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Paleontology on the Prairie

Science class is right under your feet at Castle Rock, the Badlands. Go fossil hunting for sharks’ teeth that date back millions of years to when the Great Inland Sea divided the North America continent in half.

Your kids can imagine the giant prehistoric fish that once lived in the rock’s nooks and crannies and swam right above their heads. The geological features of the Kansas prairie are also a perfect example of how water and wind affect rocks over millions of years.

A Wildlife Safari

Bring your binoculars with you to catch a glimpse of a few of our wild neighbors. White tail and mule deer, coyotes, jackrabbits, and a prairie songbirds, like meadowlarks and red winged blackbirds, fill our prairie. Early morning is the best time to see these animals but beware of rattlesnakes in the rocky areas where they may be sunning themselves.

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Smoky Valley Scenic Byway

The stories of our ancestors come to life at historical landmarks along the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway. Look for one of the Butterfield Overland Despatch (B.O.D.) limestone posts along Hwy. 147 south of Cedar Bluff State Park’s Bluffton Area. It’s just one several markers placed along the historic Smoky Hill Trail in the 1960s to map out the route early pioneers used to travel to the Colorado gold mines over 100 years ago.

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The Wilcox School

Visit one of the last remaining rural schoolhouses in Trego County, Wilcox School. It’s a great opportunity to point out how different students experienced school over a hundred years ago. To get to the school travel 15-miles south on Hwy. 283 south of WaKeeney. Several interpretive panels in the windows tell how the school was used 1886 to the present day and one panel will help you learn more about the native wildflowers found along the byway during the growing season.

Stop at the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway’s informational kiosks located along Hwy. 283 and WaKeeney’s Eisenhower Park at Exit 127 for more lessons on the history and environment of our county and city.

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History and Fun at WaKeeney’s City Parks

WaKeeney is home to great parks and playgrounds. Let them run free on the vast lawn of the Courthouse Square in Downtown WaKeeney.

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Plan a picnic at the Swimming Pool Park. With playground equipment for all ages and covered shelters, families can spend hours at the park without running out of things to do.

Eisenhower Park

City Landmarks

WaKeeney is home to several war memorials that illustrate America’s role in conflicts around the globe and the sacrifices made by the men and women of our military.

Iwo Jima Memorial

You’ll find the Iwo Jima Memorial at I-70’s east Exit #128, an F-14 jet at Eisenhower Park, a Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial at Courthouse Square, and the KansasVeteran’s Cemetery one mile north of the Iwo Jima memorial on Hwy. 283.

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 Time Out for Parents at Big Creek Golf Course

Spend time teach your kids the game of golf at Big Creek Golf Course. The nine-hole course is arolling prairie with native Buffalo grass fairways and lush, watered greens. With a yardage of 6251, a slope of 122 and a rating of 69.6, you’ll have the opportunity to send that ball sailing in an arc across the big, beautiful prairie sky.

More Ideas

There are even more ways to enjoy time outside in Trego County!

TJH Kay has put together a “Social Distancing Scavenger Hunt” for March 25-April 15. The “Pillars of Education” theme encourages the community to display things in their windows that correspond with the topic of the week. Kids can find them when they are out on walks and enter weekly to win the Family Prize Pack by texting (785) 769-3297 or posting a picture of your participation on KAY Sponsor Stacie Edgett Minson’s Facebook page. (Check out the flyer above for ideas to place in your window.)

Take your little ones on a “Bear Hunt” through town. Several of our citizens have placed teddy bears in the windows of their homes for kids to look for as they pass by. Check out the Facebook page dedicated to the event for more information.

Geocaching is a great way to explore the outdoors through a challenging game and give your kids a lesson about how to use coordinates to locate landmarks.

Anyone who’s attended TCHS knows the glory of “dragging Main,” so let’s crank up the tunes and do it again! Drag Main – WaKeeney! Let’s Do It Again! will be held Saturday, March 28that 8pm. There will be a box on the corner of First Federal for anyone who would like to donate non-perishable items to family food boxes. This is a repeat of an earlier event that saw great success, with over 70 cars and 124 canned goods and other items donated to our friends in need. Check out their Facebook page for more information.

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Family Memories

While it’s important to social distance ourselves at this time, you don’t have to stay indoors. Get out and make some memories with your kids! You’ll find many activities and learning opportunities right outside your door in Trego County.

 

Kansas Rocks! A Spring Break “Staycation” in Western Kansas

Whether you wear cowboy boots or hiking boots, you don’t have to go far for a memorable and affordable Spring Break. Plan a “staycation” in Trego, Gove, Logan, and Scott counties and you’ll find out that Kansas Rocks!

Here are a few of family-friendly spots to consider when planning your day trip or overnight stay in WaKeeney. (A $5 vehicle permit that will allow access into both Cedar Bluff and Lake Scott State Parks, as well as all other state parks in Kansas.)

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Cedar Bluff Overlook

Start your day watching the famous Kansas sunrise from the top of the 100-ft. limestone cliffs at Cedar Bluff Reservoir! Grab a coffee in WaKeeney then head out to the lake where prairie songbirds are waking up and greeting their neighbors. We’ve had an abundance of rain this year and the south shore provides a spectacular view of the lake and the wildlife who live in the park.

To get to Cedar Bluff Scenic Overlook take I-70 to Exit #127 at WaKeeney and turn south. Travel 18-miles south on Hwy 283, then turn east on Trego County AA Rd. Proceed east for 4 miles, north on Trego County 290 and follow the signs.This area of the park is free to the public.

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Castle Rock & its Badlands

Just west of Trego’s county line is Castle Rock and its Badlands. This geological feature is evidence of Western Kansas’s prehistoric past as the shoreline of the Western Interior Seaway… Fossils can still be found in the limestone rock formations and many short trails that wind through the Castle Rock and the Badlands.

To get toCastle Rock and the Badlandstake I-70 Exit #115 at Collyer, turn south and travel12.4 miles south on Banner Rd. Then, turn west and travel 2.8 miles, on Trego County U Rd. It will become Gove County K Rd. Turn into the pasture that has the Castle Rock sign & cross cattle guard. Pay attention to weather conditions, as the limestone trail can become difficult to drive on. Castle Rock is free to the public.

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Buffalo Bill Cultural Center

“GoWest, young man!” to Logan County where a 16-ft. bronze sculpture of the Old West hero Buffalo Bill “races” after an American buffalo. The privately funded installation was first created in clay, then broken into over 100 smaller pieces and cast separately. Once cooled, the pieces were welded together and a layer of patina as applied to the outside. Today, it welcomes visitors outside the Buffalo Bill Cultural Center, a cultural history museum that includes many artifacts from that legendary time period.

The Buffalo Bill Cultural Center and its Buffalo Bill Bronze Statue take I-70 to Exit #76 or    #70 Oakley. This museum is free to the public.

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Fick Fossil & History Museum

Stare down an enormous, fearsome prehistoric fish fossil at Oakley’s Fick Fossil & History Museum. Over 11,000 marine fossils are included in the museum’s collection, including a 15-ft. Xiphactinus Audax and the world’s oldest known mosasaur fossil with a rare intact eye socket. Other exhibits include artifacts from pioneer days and a “Funky Fossil Folk Art display.

Fick Fossil Museumis located just off I-70 at Exit #76 or #70 Oakley. There is no fee to visit the museum. A donation is suggestion.

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Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park

Explore the surreal landscape of Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park, Kansas’s newest state park. This 330-acre park was established in 2019 and features white chalk rock spires dating back 85-million years. Named for their resemblance to the ancient rock walls of Jerusalem, the area was once home to giant prehistoric clams and oysters, but now visitors will find ferruginous hawks, cliff swallows, rock wrens and several species of amphibians and reptiles living in the rock crevasses. There is a 1/4-mile scenic overlook trail and a 1-1/2 mile self-guided trail to explore, and a two-hour naturalist guided hike into the outcroppings is also available by booking ahead.

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Monument Rocks

Visit the Badlands nearby neighbor Monument Rocks for more paleontology explorations. The 70-ft. chalk formations date to the Cretaceous Period and has been designated as one of the “8 Wonders of Kansas.” Photographers often gather at sunrise and sunset to capture dramatic images of the sun’s softening colors reflected on the white limestone cliffs.

Both Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park and Monument Rocks are located south of Oakley on Hwy. 83.A daily or annual vehicle permit for $5 is required to visit Little Jerusalem Badlands and there is a strict no-collection policy that applies to paleontological and all other finds atthe site.

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Keystone Gallery

Stop by the Keystone Gallery and enjoy the art of Chuck Bonner and Barbara Shelton in the gallery’s Prairie Ocean exhibition. The gallery’s building was built from native limestone in 1917 to serve the community as a church. Today, you’ll find Bonner and Shelton’s paintings, landscape photography, and more. An additional collection includes a 20-ft. Mosasaur and fossils of several fish, reptiles, and bird species.

The Keystone Gallery is located on Hwy 83 South of Oakley.

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Historic Lake Scott State Park

Tucked inside a prairie canyon, Lake Scott State Park is both an archeological site and a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Listed on National Geographic’s “50 must-see state parks,” it features natural springs, deep wooded canyons, craggy bluffs, and a number of important early American historical sites.

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Battle Canyon at Lake Scott

Battle Canyon, the location of the last Native American battle in Kansas is located in a canyon about 1-mile south of the park. The Battle of Punished Woman’s Fork was a clash between US Troops from Fort Dodge and Northern Cheyenne people led by Chief Dull Knife and Little Wolf. During the battle, Lt. Colonel William Lewis was mortally wounded in the thigh, becoming the last army officer fatality in Kansas during the Indian Wars.

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El Quartelejo Ruins at Lake Scott

During the 1600s, Taos Indians from the Southwest fled north to the High Plains to escape oppressive Spanish rule. They settled near Lake Scott in what is now known as the El Quartelejo Pueblo Ruins. In 1701 a group of Picuris Native Americans resided there for two years, and by 1727 is was abandoned and left to deteriorate until only a mound and a few irrigation ditches remained. The site was rediscovered in the mid-1890s and today you can see the pueblo’s reconstructed foundation at the site. Evidence of an Apache roasting pit and floors, hearths, and spots where support beams were placed to support the structure can also be seen.

To get to Lake Scott State Park, Battle Canyon and the El Quartelejo Ruinscontinue down Hwy 83 between Oakley & Scott City

 

Plan a Western Kansas “staycation” for your family’s Spring Break this year and enjoy the history, beauty, and adventure in your own backyard!

 

3 “Don’t Miss” Trego County Day Trips

Traveling down a country road is often the best way to explore the amazing beauty and many surprises found throughout Western Kansas. With that in mind we’ve compiled three day trips within Trego County that will delight and excite you as you cruise down the “road less traveled.”


NOTE: The bridge over the Cedar Bluff Reservoir spillway is currently under construction on K-147 until August 2020. The road is closed for 1.8 miles, but the rest of the highway is open to travelers. KDOT has created a 60-mile detour around the lake. For a shorter detour, take one of Trego County’s scenic country roads, such as TR CO U or X. Just make sure road conditions are good, especially after wet weather. 

To get to the North Shore: Access to all the north side landmarks can be reached as usual from I-70 at the Ogallah exit traveling south on K-147. (Emanuel Lutheran Church, the Bluffton Campground, Cedar Bluff State Park’s office, Threshing Machine Canyon, and the BOD Marker)

To Get to the South Shore: Access the South Shore by traveling north on K-147 from Hwy 4 at Brownell. (Page Creek Campground, Agave Ridge Hiking Trail, and the Scenic Bluff Overlook)


Trego County Day Trips

Day Trip 1: The Smoky Valley Scenic Byway

Begin your exploration on the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway! There are eight features along the 60-mile route that offer insight into the landscape and history of the region.

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Begin your drive by turning off I-70 at Ogallah and head south at Hwy. 147 and drive to the Emanuel Lutheran Church. Constructed in 1902 by Swedish immigrants using native limestone, it is a beautiful example of the craftsmanship of our early settlers.

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Just down the road from the church is Cedar Bluff State Park & Reservoir, Trego County’s scenic natural playground.

As you continue drive on K-147 to the Bluffton area keep a sharp eye out for a quarried limestone post with “BOD 1865” carved into its front. It is located south of the turn into the park’s Bluffton Area and the Cedar Bluff State Park office. It marks the Butterfield Overland Despatch route that took early pioneers to the goldmines in Colorado. It is one of several that trace the historic trail from Atchison, Kansas to Denver and was erected in the 1960s as a memorial to the arduous journey.Nearby, you can hike a trail leading to Threshing Machine Canyon where pioneers carved messages into the limestone rock as they traveled west.

The Cedar Bluff State Park office has several brochures that can add to your experience along the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway, and park officials can give you tips to help you get the most out of your day trip, including spending time at the 350-acre Bluffton Area campground and picnic area.


 NOTE: At this point, due to the bridge construction, you will either have to turn around and take the KDOT detour (60-miles) to the South Shore or take the shorter detour on the Trego County roads.

 Suggested Alternative Route: We suggest a more scenic country road that starts at Trego CO CC Road from K-147 on the east side of the reservoir and connects to Hwy 283 on the west side. Follow the road, which eventually becomes Trego CO AA Road as it continues west, then turn toward the Scenic Bluff Overlook turnoff.


 Once you reach the south side of the reservoir, we suggest taking the scenic country road to the Page Creek Area, the Agave Ridge Hiking Trail, and the Cedar Bluff Overlook. It’s a beautiful natural area where visitors often spot wildlife in the prairie grasses and along the shore.

The overlook boasts towering 100-foot limestone bluffs that is a perfect place to take in beautiful landscape and Cedar Bluff Reservoir.

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When you reach Hwy. 283 turn north to WaKeeney and make a stop at the Wilcox School, a one-room schoolhouse built in 1886. The limestone was quarried along the Smoky Hill River and brought to the site by local stonemasons. For sixty years it was used as a school and community center, and eventually a motorcycle club claimed it as their clubhouse. Today, you’ll find informative panels that provide details into the history of the building, the region, and the wildflowers growing in the area.

Get to know our prairie better at the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway Kiosk. It is full of information about the surrounding flora and fauna and interesting historical facts that occurred in the area.

Look for a beautiful example of early Volga-German construction at the Zion Lutheran Church. Built in 1905,it continues to be an active church, with many of the original descendants still filling the pews.

Eisenhower Park

End your adventure inWaKeeney, Trego’s county seat. You’ll find beautiful parks, friendly businesses, hotels and restaurants, and many fun festivals happening throughout the year. Be sure to stop by the F-14 Fighter Jet in Eisenhower Park near Exit #127 to view the interpretive panels about WaKeeney and Trego County before you begin your road trip.

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Day Trip 2: Shiloh Vineyard

Enjoy a glass of Trego County sunshine at Shiloh Vineyard!

This family-owned winery was founded in 2008 by Kirk & Treva Johnston and is the only vineyard located in Western Kansas. All varieties of their wine are produced from fruit harvested on the Johnston family farm and includes dry whites, dry reds, semi-sweet white, fruit, and dessert wines. Shiloh offers regular wine tastings and an informative tour of the production facility, vineyard, and surrounding landscape. They often host special events and classes throughout the year.  To get to Shiloh Vineyard travel west from WaKeeney on I-70 seven miles to Exit #120 on Voda Road. Turn south on Voda Road/180 Avenue and travel 4 1/2 miles to M Road. Turn west on M Road and drive 1-mile to the vineyard.

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Day Trip 3: Castle Rock

Take a trip into the past with a visit to Castle Rockone of the most notable features on our prairie. The large chalk pillar was formed from limestone deposits during the mid- to late Cretaceous period when a great inland sea divided North America. Designated as one of the “8 Wonders of Kansas,” it was used as a landmark for pioneers  and has become a favorite among today’s fossil hunters. To find Castle Rock take I-70 at Exit #115 to Collyer, turn south on Banner Road/130 Avenue and travel for approximately 12.4 miles to TR CO U. Turn west on TR CO U Rd and travel approximately 2.8 miles. You will be traveling from Trego County to Gove County, where the road becomes GO CO K. Turn into the pasture at the Castle Rock sign, cross the cattle guard, and stop at the overlook to enjoy the view below of Castle Rock and it’s nearby rocky neighbor call the Badlands. You may drive down into the valley below but pay attention to the road conditions and the weather as the chalk dust can get slick and sticky.

Before you head out on your day trip through Trego County grab aWaKeeney Visitor’s Guide & Map. In it you’ll find all the roads in Trego County mapped out for you to explore “off the beaten path” where the scenery and landscape come alive. You can find them at many different locations in WaKeeney or at the Cedar Bluff Office at the North Shore or at Sport Haven.

See Western Kansas’s beauty, grandeur, and historical significance on a day trip through Trego County!